Nominations are closed. Come back February 3 to meet the candidates!

Karlie Smith

Branch: Marine Corps

Duty Station: Not Affiliated With a Duty Station

Number of Deployments: 4

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
I am from a small, rural community in Victor, Idaho, where I grew up on a working ranch as the youngest of 5 children. My upbringing in a town with less than 2,000 people was more sheltered than many others. When I married my husband in 2016, we left rural Idaho for Quantico, Virginia, and my immersion in military culture and life in previously inconceivably large cities began in earnest. My husband was frequently gone during this adjustment, either for field training, formal schools, or deployments, which was challenging for someone not accustomed to living alone or in a dense urban area. We also moved frequently, living in multiple locations in Virginia and California. Inconsistency and uncertainty were common themes for years. Volunteer work became a constant in my personal/professional life in 2020 when I began working as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at the county recovery center. Helping the most vulnerable members of our community live healthier, sober lifestyles has become an anchor in my personal life that allows me to remain resilient with my challenges. During my tenure as a VISTA, I was fortunate to expand the recovery center's programs by engaging with the Phoenix National Sober Active Community group. This group endeavors to foster a supportive, physically active community for individuals recovering from a substance use disorder and those who choose to live sober. Through this program, I have had the opportunity to bring a renewed emphasis on healthy lifestyle habits to our community. While my tenure as a VISTA has ended, I continue to work as a trainer in the evenings after my full-time position at the local hospital. I believe that I can directly impact the lives of others in my community through education about the connection between physical fitness, sobriety, and overall health.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
To be candid, our current duty station is a small, remote area with has very few military members, and my emphasis has been on the greater community. However, when we make our next PCS move, it will be back to an area with a much large military population. I believe that I can continue to help others by engaging with both service members and their spouses to help improve their quality of life.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
Our community is very small, and there is not a great deal of involvement. We engage in the same practices that occur in a larger military community on a small scale. When we move back to an area with a larger military community, I plan to continue my involvement helping service members and spouses the same way I do now with our local community's at-risk population.

Describe how you support your community:
My community engagement has been an important part of my identity and adaptation to life as a military spouse. Before volunteering in my local community, I was often at a loss about how to develop connections after each move. Volunteering to help others has quickly become central to my efforts to establish meaningful connections in our community despite our frequent moves.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for healthy living for our local community, inside and out of the military. I truly believe that an increased emphasis on health achieved through a healthy diet and exercise dramatically increases one's overall quality of life. When applied specifically to the service member, it makes them more resilient and effective in their profession. When applied to spouses and families, it helps to reduce the overall strain on the family that supports the service member.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Initially, I had to work hard to ensure that I engaged the community about my goals to increase overall health in our community. While I did not use social media much for the endeavor, I relied greatly on everything from creating and passing out pamphlets to in-person meetings with key leaders in the area, the latter being especially effective in a small town. In the future, in a larger area, I will employ social media to message my goals effectively.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I hope to demonstrate that despite the unique challenges of life as a military spouse, we can absolutely impact our communities and the lives of everyone in them. Moving frequently and often managing our homes on our own can be challenging. However, it does not mean that we cannot successfully engage others and set a positive example for the community at the same time.

Nominations

Karlie Smith is a military spouse, entrepreneur, volunteer, and agent for change in her rural community. As the wife of an active duty Marine, she frequently moves, managing her household independently. Despite the difficulties of her role as a military spouse Karlie has worked tirelessly to earn a Master's degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis while simultaneously operating a small online business through Spouse-ly. In addition to her other commitments, Karlie volunteered for a year as a Community Outreach Representative, creating resources for individuals struggling with substance abuse, behavioral health, and mental health issues. She volunteers as a physical trainer in our rural community, encouraging a healthy approach to physical conditioning and diet to improve the quality of life where she lives. Combining those two passions, Karlie started volunteering with the Phoenix program, facilitating fitness and creating a sober fitness community for people in recovery.
- by Amish Smith